The month of January can be tough for a junior college basketball team, just ask Trailblazer men’s basketball coach Doug Stotler. “January is a rough month physically. (Our players) played the whole first semester, get two weeks off, and then come back and coaches are pounding on you.” But with the way the Trailblazers are playing, you might not realize how rough it may be.
The January 13 matchup between Lewis And Clark and the Loggers of Lincoln Land Community College proved to be not much of a match once the first half ended. After a tight and low-scoring first twenty minutes, the Trailblazers only led by four at the break, 36-32. The defense then locked down, allowing just 23 points in the second half. On the other side of the court, the offense stepped up when needed, scoring 62 points of their own in the half, the Trailblazers taking the game by a lopsided score of 98-55.
“What we’ve got is a group of guys that when challenged verbally about being relevant in this region, they responded really, really well.” said Stotler following the contest, “That second half, I think that’s the difference. They picked up their intensity level and played to their ability. We guarded better, we attacked better, and we finally made some shots. If we can continue to do that I think we’re possibly going to be relevant (in the region) when it’s all said and done.”
Winning six straight going back before the winter break, Lewis & Clark is as hot as any team in the region, and is on a crash course with Region 24 rival and nationally ranked Vicennes this Saturday at Riverbend Arena.
“I know we’re on a winning streak, but I’m more worried about a possession at a time rather than a game at a time.” Said Stotler, giving this intrepid reporter a true “coach’s answer”. “It’s literally play-by-play, ‘let’s play defense, let’s rebound, let’s transition’. We break the game up into six different components/principles of basketball and we take em one at a time. Now the transition from each of those principles to the next has to be really, really fast, and that’s why we practice extremely hard. I’m very happy that we’ve won six in a row.”
Notable in the big win was the use of a different starting lineup for the Trailblazers. With Lincoln Land’s size, and simply due to trying to get guys minutes, Stotler tinkered with his usual lineup and ran with this different unit for the first ten or so minutes of the first half.
“I wanted to get those guys minutes. Playing three minutes at a time coming off the bench, they don’t get a real good feel for the game.” noted Stotler, “When they start it, and they’re in there for seven or eight minutes, it’s a whole different mindset, a whole different approach to the game. Playing in the game when it matters. It’s 0-0, they look up at the scoreboard and think ‘hey, everything I’m doing is really important right now’.”
While admittedly the alternate lineup had some struggles with cohesion that the main fold has already smoothed out, they proved more than capable, and looked sharp shooting the ball. Ulysses Delayney stood out in this group, nailing a number of threes to give the Trailblazers life in a slow first half.
With another win under their belts, Stotler and the Trailblazers head down I-55 to Belleville to face local rival SWIC on Wednesday, but one could forgive them if they have an eye towards their matchup at home on Saturday with the #9 team in all of NJCAA Division 1, Vincennes. For rosters and schedules for the men’s basketball team and all Trailblazer sports, visit LC.edu/Athletics.